Category Archives: New York

Unframed Ellis Island, an Art Installation by JR

While visiting Ellis Island a few weeks ago, we got to see a new art exhibit titled “Unframed – Ellis Island”  by French artist JR. The exhibit includes a number of life size and larger than life historic photographs of immigrants who came through Ellis Island, pasted onto the walls of 16 rooms.  The artist’s intent is to evoke a sense of time and place and give context to the human lives that were touched by their time at Ellis Island.

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Real faces of immigrants on the broken windows

A boy with his bags moving down the hall

A boy with his bags moving down the hall

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The images are only semi-permanent. They are pasted to the walls in a way that is meant to disintegrate over the time. To me this neatly mirrors the transitory nature of the island and the many people who came through over the years.

Tongue in cheek image of the copper kitchen hood with the juxtaposition of an image of a steam ship that would have carried immigrants to Ellis Island

Tongue in cheek image of the copper kitchen hood with the juxtaposition of an image of a steam ship that would have carried immigrants to Ellis Island

Part of the pasted photo is already coming off, as it is intended

Part of the pasted photo is already coming off, as it is intended

To me, the installation was really powerful. It brought a kind of life and realism to the seemingly fantastical sites of the hard hat tour. It puts faces to the experiences of the immigrants that came through the island and spent time detained in quarantine. It also made me think more about the people who spent their lives on the island as staff. Doctors, nurses, maids, kitchen staff and administrators lived on the island to facilitate its needs. These people did what they could to ease the stress of the process and take care of those who were sick or injured.

A medical team

A surgical team

Images of nurses on a surgery room wall

Images of doctors and nurses on a surgery room wall

An image of a doctor

An image of a doctor

JR is known around the world for his his “Pervasive Art” exhibitions which are designed to raise questions through juxtaposition and their placement. Though he is traditionally a street artist, he has also partnered with the likes of the New York City Ballet in 2014 (http://www.nycballet.com/Videos/Evergreen-Special/JR-Art-Series.aspx).

He received the TED Prize in 2011 for his Inside Out project. See http://www.insideoutproject.net/en for more details.

Ellis Island, The Hard Hat Edition

A couple of weeks ago my mom and I celebrated my birthday by going to the hard hat tour of Ellis Island. This tour, offed by the Save Ellis Island organization,  has only recently been introduced and takes visitors through dilapidated yet stabilized areas of the island’s facilities that had previously been closed to the public. Hard hats are seriously required.We booked the tour three months in advance, but were lucky to have a beautiful but cold day for our visit.

To get you Ellis Island you take a ferry either from NY’s Battery Park or New Jersey’s Liberty State Park. The views on the way are worth the trip alone.

Lady Liberty in all her glory

Lady Liberty in all her glory

In 1954 the federal government declared Ellis Island “surplus government property” and the site was abandoned. They considered selling or redeveloping the island, but nothing moved forward. Without and funding the buildings sat for thirty years until the 1980’s when the Main Building and a few other structures were designated for restoration and money was provided for their stabilization.

The buildings that we toured had certainly withstood the test of time, but not without major wear and tear. Ceilings had caved in, walls collapsed, windows were blown out and Hurricane Sandy took its toll. Nature had begun to reclaim the structures with trees and plants growing indoors.

To me, the most incredible part of the tour was getting a glimpse into the lives of the immigrants that came through Ellis Island in its years of operation (1892 – 1934). About 12 million people came through Ellis Island during those years. While most were able to enter the United States without holdup, about 1% of the people were quarantined on the island for treatment  or deported. I can only imagine their fear of being sent home or separated from their families.

To lose these buildings to neglect would be a tragedy. I am happy to report that in recent years more attention has been paid to preservation and funding for the Island has been increased. Ellis Island has shaped the experiences of so many of our ancestors. Its a story and history worth preserving.

What follows are my photos from the tour. As they largely speak for themselves, I wanted to share them without too much editorializing.

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Linen and Cloth Room

Damaged hallway in the midst of reconstruction

Damaged hallway in the midst of reconstruction

Morgue and Autopsy stadium for teaching

Morgue and Autopsy stadium for teaching

Crumbling dining Hall

Crumbling Hospital wing

What a view

What a view

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Seriously damaged hallway

Staff housing

Staff housing

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more staff apartments

Laundry machinery

Laundry machinery

Rusted Circuit Breaker

Rusted Circuit Breaker

If you interested in visiting the island or taking a tour, go to http://www.saveellisisland.org/visit/. Be sure to make your bookings far in advance as tours book up early.

If you found this interesting, come back next week to see a second post about an important art installation called Unframed Ellis Island by JR.

Have a Little Hope

Sorry for my absence everyone. I hope that everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving. I’ll be back very soon with a longer post but I wanted to get this one up first.

Lately I’ve been down about the results of the grand juries for Eric Garner and Darren Wilson/Michael Brown. Protests and “die ins” for Eric Garner are continuing in NYC. On the other side of the world, Africans are still suffering through the Ebola outbreak. Crisis still looms large in the Ukraine. There is so much to worry about.

Given all that is happening, I was walking down the street the other day, in deep serious thought and I almost walked straight into Robert Indiana’s “Hope” Sculpture.

Robert Indiana's Hope, located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street

Robert Indiana’s Hope, located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 53rd Street

It was exactly what I needed in that moment to remind me to have hope. Things are very serious, and there is lots that we need to fix, but without hope there is little that we can do.  I continue to have hope that we can make this country and world a better, safer and healthier place for everyone.

Have hope this holiday season!

Bryant Park Popsicle

Did I say winter was here in my last post? Apparently that was no joke. I cut through Bryant Park the other night on the way to the theater and caught site of this:

Frozen Fountain in Bryant Park

Frozen Fountain in Bryant Park

I worked in an office next to Bryant Park for over six years and I’ve never seen the fountain freeze. Usually the fountain has long been turned off by the time we get a sustained cold for long enough to freeze.

It looks like its going to be a long cold one. Bundle up people!

For the Birds

I am kind of afraid of birds, but this birdhouse was so perfect I had to share it. The roof is made of a vintage copy of  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the entrance is a mockup of the cover page of an early edition of the book.

Yesss!

Yesss!

Colorful Construction

This has to be the most colorful scaffolding and construction site I’ve ever seen.1017141412_1

Indian Summer in the City

It may be mid-October, but today feels more like late summer in NYC. People are out in tank tops and short, enjoying the sun. Enjoy it while it lasts!

How I wish I could be basking in the sun like this guy

Mother Nature is a Rad Lady

If you missed tonight’s sunset and clouds in NYC you missed out. Never fear, I captured it all for you.

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That Fish is Too Big

Anyone who knows me knows that I love sea creatures. My favorite movies growing up were Splash and The Little Mermaid. I don’t now, nor have I ever eaten seafood or anything from the ocean including seaweed.

So, a while back, I was wandering through the Union Square Whole Foods and saw this fish (see below). My immediate thought was “That fish is too big! No one is going to buy that fish and it will all be a waste!” I’m not the only one who was astonished by the fish. More than a few other shoppers stopped to take pictures and laugh about the Too Big Fish.

A fish too big

A fish too big

Really though. Think about it. Would you want to be the person who asks for a slice off of an otherwise fully intact fish of that size? Part of his body is hanging off the ice! Wouldn’t you be worried about his freshness? This is the way my mind works. I wondered what Whole Foods was thinking with this marketing. Was there a reason why they displayed this whole rather than cut into easily purchasable steaks or fillets?

I don’t know what happened to the Too Big Fish, but I hope that he wasn’t wasted. If he had to be caught and put on ice, I hope someone made a nice dinner out of him.

Mmmm, that after rain foresty taste

One of my favorite words is “petrichor” which refers to the scent of rain on dry earth. I love the smell of rain and it takes me back to happy memories of summer camp, playing on the screened in porch and frolicking in puddles.

The smell associated with rain is derived from  geosmin being released into the atmosphere.  Geosmin is a metabolic by-product of certain bacteria which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent. So, really what you smell is bacteria byproduct. Pretty cool, huh?

As pleasant as petrichor is, I very much doubt that anything that smells of rain tastes very good.  Starkbucks on the other hand  seems to think that this is great marketing for their Komodo Dragon blend.

Starbucks marketing coffee that smells like petrichor

Starbucks marketing coffee that smells like petrichor

Mmmmmm, taste that bacteria byproduct.